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Hakone Just a Checkpoint Along the Road to the Top for Akinobu Murasawa

http://www.asahi.com/sports/column/TKY200904110148.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The close-cropped haircut Akinobu Murasawa wore during his days at Nagano's Saku Chosei High School has grown out a little. Since February the high school star has been practicing with the Tokai University team ahead of his graduation from Saku Chosei and entrance into Tokai in April. "It feels different from high school," he says at the outset of his university career. "In university I want to learn how to be a competitor."

Last year was a big one for the 18 year old Murasawa. He was on the winning teams in the National High School Ekiden and National Interprefectural Ekiden, set a stage record of 23:55 for the 8.5 km 5th stage in the Interprefectural Ekiden, and ran on both the 2008 and 2009 World Cross Country Championships junior national teams. He also won the national high school 5000 m, his time of 13:50.86 ranking him at all-time 7th on the Japanese high school list. With such achievements behind him Murasawa approached university recruitment ranked number one in the country. He chose Tokai University because, "[Saku Chosei] Coach Morozumi went there, and he's someone I really respect."

In junior high school Murasawa was a no-name. He went to Nagano's Narakawa Junior High, of which he recalls, "There were only 20 students in each grade, so it was too small to have a track and field team." As a result, he played on the soccer team where in practices he found that he was not very fast during sprint drills. "I didn't have a very good impression of running," he says.

The big change came his second year of junior high school. Murasawa's brother, two years his elder, entered high school and joined his school's track team. The younger Murasawa thought his brother looked cool when he headed off to practice and he began tagging along on his days off from soccer. This grew into running on his own after soccer practice, and then on to entering regional track meets despite officially being a member of the soccer team. He grew to love running and was accepted into the powerful Saku Chosei High School. There, his natural talent blossomed and he discovered his great strength as a runner, his smooth, resilient form.

For universities in the Kanto region the Hakone Ekiden is where runners focus all of their attention and energies, but for Murasawa, "Hakone is just a checkpoint. I'm thinking beyond that to my pro career. From there it's up up up." At the end of that staircase lies the world level.

Akinobu Murasawa - born Mar. 28, 1991 in Nagano Prefecture. 166 cm, 51 kg. 5000 m PB: 13:50.86 - all-time Japanese H.S. #7. 2nd place, 2008 National High School 10000 m. 27th, 2009 World Cross Country Championships junior race.

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